Team Anna launches fast, attacks Pranab on graft issue

Team Ann fast.jpg.crop_display.jpg

Team Anna on Wednesday launched an indefinite fast raising the pitch against the UPA government and attacked new President Pranab Mukherjee on the issue of corruption amidst sloganeering by a group of suspected NSU(I) activists who protested against the agitation.

Minutes after Anna Hazare and his close aides took the dais at Jantar Mantar around noon, a group of around 20-30 members among the crowd wearing 'I am Anna' caps shouted slogans against Arvind Kejriwal but were removed from the venue.

A minor scuffle ensued but no one was injured. The protesters were taken out of the venue where they continued sloganeering against Kejriwal. Team Anna member Kumar Vishwas, meanwhile, said they would release an audio clip, which, he claimed, was recorded by a volunteer. Activists suspected to be of the NSU(I) are purportedly taped saying 'Give Anna a push and beat up Arvind and Manish', he said.

V. Narayanasamy, Minister of State in the PMO, dubbed as ‘baseless and unfounded’ the allegations levelled by Team Anna that NSUI activists had tried to disrupt their agitation.

"The allegations are unfounded and without any fact. They are trying to divert the attention of the people by levelling such allegations," he said, adding that Congress has full faith in democratic principles and not in violence. Hazare, who has announced that he will join fast on Sunday if the government does not concede to the demands on Lokpal Bill, sat on a dharna while his aides - Kejriwal, Manish Sisodia and Gopal Rai - started the fast.

They reached the dharna spot after paying a visit to Rajghat. Attacking Mukherjee, who was on Wednesday sworn-in as the new President, Kejriwal said they will continue to raise allegations against him.

Team Anna had earlier named Mukherjee among 15 Union Ministers against whom they had demanded an independent probe into their allegations of corruption. At the protest site, Team Anna covered the photograph of Mukherjee with a cloth as Kejriwal alleged that Congress has now managed to put a 'chadar' on the allegations against its leader.

"According to Constitution, the President has immunity against any investigation. We have given evidence against Mukherjee to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi two months ago. But there was no probe. "In the name of Constitution, now government has masked the allegations against him. We condemn this," Kejriwal said.

At the venue where around 3,000 people had gathered, Team Anna members responded to reported acrid remarks by Congress ministers and leaders against them. Referring to a reported comment by a Minister that Team Anna could approach the UN for Lokpal Bill, Sisodia said they are not going anywhere and it is their right to get the law enacted.

"They are coming up with such statements. The law will be made in the country. It is our right. There is no need for any international forum to get involved in it," he said. Rai, who is the third Team Anna member on fast, said the decisive fight has begun. On the purported audio clip, he said, "You are talking about beating us up. You should remember 2014 is coming. The dreams of people to fulfill their wishes will come true then. A revolution will hit then." Team Anna member Kiran Bedi said people are back to protest as an act of final sacrifice. "Many people in the Cabinet who frame laws for us are corrupt. We are demanding a probe," she said.

Kejriwal said if Lokpal comes into force, 90 per cent of corruption can be eradicated in the country. "I would like to appeal to all government employees not to accept any graft and send your stories to us. We will propagate it to the rest of the nation," he said. On the purported audio clip and the scuffle, he said if someone thinks that corruption can be eradicated from the country by beating them up, then they were ready for it.

"Tell us where should we come. We will come there and get beaten up. NSU(I) cadres are not our enemies. They are our brothers. I just want to tell them that Anna Hazare is giving his life to save the country for the future. "Spreading violence is not democracy. This is what Nehru and Shastri taught you people? We are fasting in front of the people who love us...," he said.

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